Eddie Jones must find his way again to return England to top form

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Eddie Jones, the England head coach looks on as the backs warm up during the England captain's run at Twickenham Stadium on March 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Much like Dorothy and Toto, England head coach Eddie Jones must find his way again and stick to the yellow brick road after being diverted by various distractions along the way, writes Alistair Stokes.

We flashback to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where Eddie Jones is an outsider to the England camp. The Australian spoke honestly and bluntly (as always) about various issues he spotted in the side from afar. The most prevalent of which was the selection of Chris Robshaw as captain and openside flanker.

Returning to the here and now, Robshaw is one of England’s primary leaders (rightly so) and has started their last three tests out of position in the seven jersey. Jones allowed himself to become distracted from some of the biggest issues England were suffering in 2015, of which he was so publicly critical of. The England boss became blind to the issues he once strived to rectify. He came too close to the squad to see it to see what was heppening. Eddie Jones must find his way again to return England to top form.

And so it begins

Since two humblings at the hands of Scotland and France, Jones has seemingly received a wake-up call. He has rung the changes to the side to face Ireland this weekend in effort to finish with a flourish. Kyle Sinckler, James Haskell, Owen Farrell and Ben Te’o all return to a starting role or their natural position. Which will go some way to solving a handful of England’s issues.

Recently, it seemed Jones was set on taking a squad to Japan far closer to Stuart Lancaster’s than originally expected. However, the wake-up call he and England have received over the last month looks to have kickstarted the 58-year-old head coach back into gear. Anthony Watson retains his spot at fullback and Owen Farrell shifts back to fly-half, the first time since 2016. Along with the afore mentioned changes, there is suddenly promise in this English side.

Jones should be thanking Scotland, France and perhaps Ireland for their defeats. They may prove to be the spark that lit a fire under England. As a result, we may see further stalwarts phased out of the side in favour of individuals possessing wider skillsets.

England vs Ireland: stalwarts axed

Dan Cole and Mike Brown are the first two casualties of the 2018 Six Nations. Both have been replaced in an attempt to add an attacking dimension England so desperately lacked. Kyle Sinckler starting at tighthead will bring pace, power and a visible intensity the team around him will feed off. Watson will ass pace and excitement to England’s counter-attack. While there is a level of risk in losing the solidarity of Brown, Watson’s attacking instincts will go some way to evolving England’s game. While they may have looked a solid, immensely effective team in 2016, the side lacked genuine, fear installing threat.

Ben Te’o starting at inside centre will also contribute to England moving forward. The former Rugby League star will increase the regularity of linebreaks and gainline success through midfield, something currently lacking. The physicality Te’o will bring paired with Farrell calling the shots at ten may have limited the number of architects in the backline, but it is an acceptable price to pay for the front foot ball England so desperately need.

Stick with it Eddie and find your way again

Eddie must persevere with these changes regardless of Saturday’s result. He must return to making the changes once at the forefront of his mind prior to and immediately following Lancaster’s departure. Cole and Brown are two of the best in the world at what they do, but are too limiting. England need time to adapt to Watson at fullback, Te’o at 12, Sinckler or Harry Williams at tighthead and Sam Underhill or Tom Curry at openside. However, it will be worth it in the long run. Jones must keep faith and trust that what they bring to the table justifies the loss of stability the likes of Cole and Brown have for so long supplied.

Had England won the title this year or even come second, we would not have seen the changes to come. We may now see otherwise excluded names brought into the fold. In attempt to reinforce or expand the squad’s skillsets, Brad Shields, Jason Woodward and Dan Robson are a few that Jones may now consider. These individuals will be able to attribute a trip to Japan to a poor 2018 Six Nations campaign.

Eddie Jones must find his way again to return to the yellow brick road he set off on in 2015. The Aussie coach has the opportunity to ensure the issues plaguing Lancaster do not return to haunt a second head coach in a row at consecutive World Cups.

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